Kelso is gearing itself up for what could prove to be one of its busiest visitor seasons ever, thanks to the facelift given to the centre of the town.
It has seen a massive programme of works - due for offical completion next month – which has included replacing town centre pavements, installing new benches, bollards, signposts, new toilets, public art, a central bus halt and the creation of new commercial office space.
Added to this, the upgrading of the frontages of the last few properties in The Square are also due to finish by the end of March.
The Kelso Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) has been a Scottish Borders Council-led project aimed at the regeneration of the historic centre of the Kelso Conservation Area.
The four-year £1.4million project has been jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the local authority.
Speaking this week, Kelso’s provost, John Bassett, says it has been a long journey for the town and its citizens to reach this stage, but has definitely been worth it. He told The Southern: “The Square especially is much more accessible now than it was; it’s more open plan, with plenty of nice new benches.
“It’s a lot easier to get round the centre of town, certainly for disabled people with wheelchairs or people with buggies.
“The number of disabled parking spaces has been increased significantly; the new town centre toilet facility is excellent and attracting a lot of positive comments and there’s even an electric car charging point that’s free to use.”
Provost Bassett also pointed out the town can also boast more accessible taxi provision as a result of the improvements to the town centre layout coupled with the one-way system.
“You do hear moans from some people about the changes, but 50 years ago when the previous round flower tubs were introduced, there would have been complaints about those being changed and yet eventually they became an integral part of The Square.”
As well as the improvements to the last of the properties around The Square nearing completion, the local branch of the town’s Royal British Legion is also enjoying a makeover through the grants scheme.
Mr Bassett continued: “It was a nice Square before, but I personally feel it’s really beautiful now. When you’re standing in it, the place seems bigger and brighter than it was before.
“I think everyone who visits this year for the first time since the improvements will notice a massive difference and when you get lovely sunny days like we’ve enjoyed recently – albeit a bit cold – The Square does look fantastic.”
So all in all, it looks like Kelso is all set to cement its place as one of the most popular towns for tourists and visitors in the Borders and the south of Scotland.